Cleveland doing an above average job of saving cardiac arrest victims

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Every second counts when someone is in cardiac arrest. The chain of survival is key.

As part of American Heart Month, Cleveland 19 News is talking with Cleveland EMS about how we as a community can contribute to more cardiac arrest saves, and more survivors.

Paramedic Mike Wagar knows how lucky he is to be alive.

"I was walking through the garage and that's the last thing that I remember," he said.

When he went into cardiac arrest his wife was nearby and worked quickly.

"She knew exactly what was happening.  She knew exactly what to do, thank God. She saved my life. It's so important. If there is no pre-hospital CPR your chances of surviving are almost none," he said.

Cleveland EMS is doing an above average job of reviving victims of cardiac arrest, saving 26 people in 2017, or roughly 30%. Across the country that number is anywhere from 2-20%, according to Commissioner of EMS, Nicole Carlton.

"We want to set our benchmark higher, and be as good as Seattle. They're in the 60-70%  just because of how they teach the community and the community's awareness about cardiac arrest," she said.

Carlton says saves are more likely when signs of a heart attack are recognized early, and when bystanders start CPR early.

"If you want to survive cardiac arrest somebody needs to start CPR before we get there, and then early defibrillation.  AEDs in public places are a must in order to survive cardiac arrest," Carlton said.

She says don't be intimidated to use them.

"We'll guide you to where they are at, then pull it off, follow directions. Open it up and turn it on and the machines talk to you and tell you what to do," Carlton explained.

Rookie Paramedic Kate Porter is doing her part to make Cleveland a heart healthy city. She's had two cardiac arrest saves in her first year on the job.

"People go into cardiac arrest all the time. Nine times out of ten you don't get a save. It's a cool feeling when you do get them back," Porter said.

She recognizes that the community stepping up as soon as they see someone go down helps paramedics' chances of saving someone once they arrive.

"When you get a save, you're like, 'I know what I'm doing, I'm actually doing some good here,'"

It's important to know that you cannot hurt someone by stepping in to use an AED. The units will only shock someone's heart if they need it, and the machine will instruct you to stand clear.  911 dispatchers are able to guide you through the steps of CPR as well.

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